Free Art Price Database Goes Online
WARNING: Free art price databases, websites, guides, and resources are fine for casual use, and if you know how to use them (most people don't). If you're an amateur looking for a freebie, and you intend to use free online art price information to either buy, sell or otherwise transact in art, watch out! The money you think you're saving can be chump change compared to the money you stand to lose by misinterpreting data or making a mistake. Want to know why? Watch this, and then read THIS.
Update posted October 5, 2012: LiveAuctioneers maintains an extensive database not only of past auction sales results, but also of items coming up for auction at sales across the country. It's pretty soup-to-nuts in terms of content-- art, antiques, collectibles, books, posters, and much more-- and generally mid to lower end in terms of quality (but not always). To complicate matters, not all the price results you locate for any particular search are for items that actually sold, even though the entries make it look like they did. So you really have to know what you're doing in order to successfully navigate this site.
Update posted October 5, 2012: Hislop's Art Sales Index art auction price database, one of the better databases out there, has been available free on the ARTINFO website for several years. The trick has been finding it from the ARTINFO homepage, but as of today, all you have to do is click the "Art Prices" link to get started. But to speed things up, here's a link directly to the Art Sales Index search form. You have to register, and the interface is a little challenging to navigate, but once you get a handle on it, you'll like what you find. Over 3.5 million auction records-- free. Not bad.
Update posted October 5, 2012: Art Brokerage is a database of art, mainly of the commercial variety, that is for sale-- NOT SOLD-- but for sale both by private owners and galleries. Some asking prices are reasonably realistic, some are on the high side, some are completely delusionary. Again, you have to know what you're doing to glean usable price information here. Just because it's for sale at a given price does not mean that that's what it's worth.
Update posted October 5, 2012: The ArtNexus.com auction price database contains price information for over 1300 artists and 21600 results of works of art sold at auction since 1992, particularly Sotheby's and Christie's Latin American sales. Plus a special added bonus-- images. Not a very large database, but worth a look just the same. Visit the ArtNexus Latin American Free Art Price database.
Update posted October 5, 2012: www.icollector.com is now a site mainly for accessing upcoming auctions, mainly for jewelry, collectibles, coins, military and so on, but art auctions are also included. A number of the sales appear to be of the "liquidation" and "blowout" variety. Results of past auctions are included, but are not easily searchable. Exercise caution here.
Update posted March 9, 2010: FindArtInfo currently online at www.findartinfo.com now has over 2,100,000 price records in its database. While it is a very good resource for current art value information, it provides only the most recent years of auction selling price results, so may yield a skewed impression of an artist's current market valuation. Remember-- if you have serious questions about art values and you're not an experienced buyer or collector, always consult an appraiser or other fine art professional before taking action. www.findartinfo.com is no longer entirely free, but you can still view abbreviated auction results. To see complete details on particular lots, you now have to pay.
Update posted June 7, 2007: A new free art price database is now online at www.artvalue.com. While it's a reasonable resource for general art value information, it provides only a portion of an artist's total auction selling price results, so be forwarned. Remember-- if you need serious accurate art values and you're not an experienced buyer or collector, consult an appraiser or other fine art professional before taking action. Remember-- determining art values is a profession, not a party game, not a hobby, not something you do in your spare time.
: No matter what database you're accessing, if you're not experienced at evaluating art price data, taking action on whatever price results you find, particularly if you're a seller, can be hazardous to your pocketbook. For art appraisal or valuation, click the appraisal link above. If you're not experienced at valuing art, getting an appraisal is highly recommended-- the cost of a professional appraisal is often far less money than you stand to lose if you don't. To read about many of the best art price resources available on the market today, click the reviews link above. As soon as we find another worthwhile free database online, we'll let you know.)
(Note posted October 12, 2000: When this review first appeared in early 1999, the icollector.com database was much more current than it is now. Unfortunately, it has not been updated and only contains auction records through 1997. The price results you find may no longer be accurate indicators of current market value.)
Text of the original article including pointers on how to evaluate art price results:
I never thought I would see this service available absolutely free, but here it is--- an online searchable art price database containing 1.1 million art auction records of works of art by 100,000 artists sold between 1987 and 1997 at over 800 auction houses around the world. All you have to do is dial up the Interactive Collector homepage at www.icollector.com, click the "resources" link at the top of the homepage, then click on the "Art Price Guide" link in the "Browse Resources" box on the left of the page that appears, and you're ready to go.
First let me say that before Interactive Collector put their "Art Price Guide" online, this amount of sales data cost users anywhere from hundreds to low thousands of dollars to own or access depending on who they bought it from and what form they bought it in. Art price publishers like ADEC and Hislop as well as online fee-based art price data providers like Artfact, ADEC, and Artnet must be in absolute shock. All survive in large part on income generated from selling art auction price information.
Now that I'm done being publicly stunned, using the Interactive Collector "Art Price Guide" is easy. You type the last name of your artist into the blank below "Artist's Name" and click on "submit." If you want to narrow your search to a particular medium such as painting, print, or drawing (which I don't advise), you also check the relevant box or boxes before clicking "submit".
Each artist in the database with that last name will then appear on your screen along with the respective number of auction sales located. You next select your artist, click "View available works," and after a few seconds, all relevant results pop on your screen. These entries are viewable in a variety of formats including ascending or descending dates of sale, and ascending or descending dollar amounts. A more detailed search engine is also available if, for example, you're researching a specific title, date, auction sale, or criteria other than or in addition to an artist's name.
As always, here are some words of caution about how to interpret auction price data and what it tells you about the art you're researching. If you're not experienced at pricing art, consider any auction results you find as only rough approximations of what your art is worth. For example, some artists sell poorly at auction, but expensively at the retail level. Others have too few records to provide realistic overviews of their selling price structures. And remember that the most recent results in this database are from 1997-- already three years old. Serious researchers should always consider older as well as the most current results when evaluating any artist's selling prices.
Pay the most attention to results that most closely compare to your work of art in size, subject matter, medium, and other particulars. Although it's tempting, avoid concluding that your art is worth as much as the most expensive pieces you find in your searches. Numerous factors go into pricing a work of art. The Interactive Collector database results tell you little or nothing about quality, condition, specifics of sales, subject matters (other than titles), or other details that may have significantly influenced selling prices in one direction or another.
Outside of that, it's time to party!! Anyone can finally get educated ideas of what their art is worth without having to pay through the nose. If, however, you need exact price information for buying, selling, insurance, tax, or donation purposes, get an appraisal.
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